Saturday, December 7, 2013


City Street
Christmas Market
Albert Dock cityview
I think I could spend my days in hostels and be extraordinarily happy.

I also think I could spend them studying parasites and public health terminology and be equally as delighted.  For the first time ever I want to look at things under a microscope, to peer into the void of squiggling worming tiny killer bugs.  I have a neon yellow high-lighter (and a pink one!), a stack of scribbled on lecture notes, and it feels criminally delicious to be back in school.

Yes.  I can be a nerd.

However!.....back to my pristine lodgings: other than braving a basement kitchen over run with black rats and "just little mice," and a bi polar roommate suffering from delusions of grandeur, I am loving it here.  Everton hostel, in addition to being the cheapest in the city, is an over 200 year old house converted into shelter extraordinaire for all sorts of wanderers, derelicts, students, and traveling workers.  It is cozy and grand and bright with lime green walls, Beatles murals and black framed posters, rooms with high ceilings and giant cracked vertical windows with sweeping cream curtains that match the ceiling trim - opening the door is like turning the pages of a forgotten novel. 

There are many people from Spain who live and work here.  I learned that Spain is experiencing a particularly high unemployment crisis and many Spaniards have immigrated to the UK to work, the workers here being no exception.  Others are here for what Liverpool is famous for - its fabulous pubs, clubs, and nightlife, birthplace of the Beatles (Beatles fans are crawling wildly through the city, coming thousands of miles to see the Cavern Club - where they first played, and to see the birthplaces of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.  You can go on multiple different Beatles tours about town), and its football team.  Last week the hostel was packed with people coming in to watch the match - sadly I don't know who it was between.  Sadly also for the Beatles fans out there....I won't be going on any tours...because although money can't buy me love it CAN buy me food.  and plane tickets.  and train tickets to the more remote parts of England so I can walk about the English Moors and pretend I'm in a Bronte novel.

Liverpool has been great really, it's sprawling and decently old and its on the coast.  In earlier times a very bustling sea port both for the slave trade and all sorts of other imports and exports.  The accent here is insane to the ear that has never heard it, "scouse," and it is a very distinct English dialect if you will.  I won't even try to attempt to imitate it either in writing or speaking but its worth a look up.  It can be very difficult for those who haven't heard it to understand, even to native English speakers.  Liverpudlians therefore are also called "scousers."  If I walk down the street I am surrounded by many different subtleties and variations of what I used to just call an "English Accent."  Another wonderful thing I discovered is that much of Europe traditionally has Christmas Markets.  These are usually in the city center and are festive and happy and fun.  There are booths and tiny assembled storefronts strung with Christmas lights (think much the vibe of a fair), people playing all sorts of instruments in the street, stalls loaded with heaping chunks of fudge, vats of beer, hot dogs and ice cream, "make your own" personalized stockings, wooden carvings and knickknacks, and all sorts of things you could possibly imagine - sweaters and oranges.....and white Christmas patterns strung across cobbled walking streets.   Many of the girls do their shopping with huge curlers in their hair - later they will be out steaming winter with perfect tiny dresses, red lipstick, legs for miles, like a ship of alien bridesmaid models descended on the city center - these girls dress it up - no Xtra Tuffs and leg warmers on a Saturday night in this city. . 

There are travelers here from France, Germany, Japan, Poland, Spain, Czechoslovakia, other parts of the UK, and many different places.  And the embarrassing thing is - every one of these blokes and wanderers speak English.  Quite good English.  It's sick how ignorant that makes me feel as I stammer about in my French and wonder what my American accent sounds like to foreign ears.  And the view most seem to have of America and particularly Alaska is embodied in one woman.  Sarah Palin.  Alaska?  US?  absurd right wing politics, the games played and wars waged on Capitol Hill and....Sarah Palin. 

I have been horribly sick, I think I had both the flu and bronchitis and its just today after a miserable 3 day sludge through congested hell and city streets I finally feel like a semi normal person.  I missed class yesterday on purpose and slept almost 17 hours straight.  So this with assist from dozens of cough drops, cold medicine, Kleenex, hot tea, a shower that sometimes works, and some Penicillin (that my roommate has conveniently been carrying across the world for 6 un-expired months!), I a have beaten the beast with many heads and am getting better slowly.  Now at least I can refocus on topics such as refugee health, emergency obstetric care, anemia, cholera, and the increasing burden of non communicable diseases in developing countries.....

I really love the Diploma in Tropical Nursing course that I am taking.  The school of Tropical Medicine here is really world renowned and we are lectured to every day by people who are involved in cutting edge research and are at the top of their fields.  There is far too much information for me to absorb but I think the real goal of this course at least for me is not just memorization.  It is just as much about gaining knowledge as it is having my mind exposed to new ideas and current thoughts and issues in the field of global health, refugee health, and foreign aid and international policy.  I will come away from this course with an amazing stack of electronic reference materials - even if I don't learn it now I will know which documents contain the information and need and where to get them. It is just a very valuable experience, the only part of which I dread being the referencing of my research paper......

I am also blessed in the random gift of a perfect roommate, the only other person in my 4 bed hostel room that not only happens to sleep in the bed above me but also is in my class.  She is a Bosnian Canadian world trekking mountaineering vegetarian yogi nurse with as great a passion to work for MSF as I do.  And she is nice.  It simply couldn't have worked out more perfectly.  It is nice to have someone to make jokes about parasitic life cycles with and who also wants to wander the streets of Liverpool on foot culminating the journey with a visit to the International Museum of Slavery (what??!!!).  Anyhow - very grateful.

Also - MSF update:

I passed the interview.
I passed the reference and background check.

There are a host of people that deserve thanks for their help advice encouragement and input in every step of the process but I will save that litany for a later date.  The truth is I am now only cautiously optimistic.  Almost every person that goes to Info Days gets into the Applicant Pool and gets to work for MSF officially and go on a mission.  But I feel that I cannot rejoice until I am done with this class, done studying French, pass my French review, and make a good impression during training.  However, it IS a big deal, at least to me, so yes.  cautiously optimistic!  Only when it is official will I celebrate full throttle screaming whoop run through public places dousing perfect strangers with champagne leaping crying dancing status.

so hmmm....that's about as newsy and informative as I feel like being for now...I actually have a host of blogs to post that I just haven't put up that I started writing since I left AK.  All in good, sweeeeeeet, time.  I'm off to study about nematodes and helminthes.  peace.  

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